Members of the public will have an opportunity to see bighorn sheep through high-powered spotting scopes at a free event on Saturday.
The event — a celebration of the completion of the initial phase of a bighorn reintroduction project in the Catalina Mountains — will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, 245 E. Ina Road.
It will be hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Advisory Committee.
“There will be exhibits and talks on the first floor of the building we’ll be in,” the resort’s Sonoran Ballroom, said Mark Hart, spokesman for Game and Fish. “There is a second story, which is essentially a balcony, and we’re going to set up the spotting scopes on the balcony.”
The site provides views of rugged Pusch Ridge and Pima Canyon, where many of the bighorns roam.
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“There’s no charge,” Hart said. “We’d just like people to come out and help us celebrate this sometimes challenging but increasingly gratifying project.”
The advisory committee recommended in 2013 that the Game and Fish Department reintroduce bighorns to the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The species had been absent from the range since the late 1990s.
Thirty bighorns, from thriving herds elsewhere in Arizona, were brought to the Catalinas in November 2013. An additional 30 sheep were released in each of the following two years, and the initial phase of the project ended with the release of 20 bighorns in November 2016.
Early stages of the project were plagued by bighorn deaths resulting from mountain lion predation and disease, but the population appeared to stabilize when sheep congregated in a habitat around Pusch Ridge.
Hart said that “85 sheep is the best estimate for the current population, and there have been 13 lambs born since January.”
The herd, Hart said, “has evolved into a watchable wildlife opportunity. I regularly get photos of the bighorns from the public. People are excited to see the sheep in their natural environment.”
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz